Valley Falls Higher education officials on Thursday gave preliminary approval to recommend $38.6 million in specific projects in the next fiscal year, but rejected an increase in funding to post-secondary schools to cover inflation.
Regents Chairman Kenny Wilk said the request for $23.8 million for inflation in the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2015, would be dismissed outright by many legislators.
And former chairman Fred Logan argued that in the past several years neither the Legislature nor Gov. Sam Brownback has made a move toward an increase in base funding to higher education, but there has been interest in funding specific projects.
"We had great success last year by proposing targeted enhancements," Logan said.
But Vice Chairman Shane Bangerter said failing to cover inflation amounted to a funding cut and will have an impact on tuition rates.
"If you get a decrease on one end, you have to increase on the other. There seems to be a direct correlation between those two numbers," Bangerter said.
Wilk, however, said it was "politically pragmatic" to approach the Legislature with specific projects instead of a general increase.
The inflation figure was based on the Higher Education Price Index which is designed to cover the main cost drivers at post-secondary schools. These include salaries, contracted services and utilities.
The board, meeting during its annual retreat, will finalize the recommendations in September to forward to Brownback for his consideration when putting together a budget. The 2015 legislative session starts in January.
The list included top priorities from each of the schools that would cost $38.6 million. Another list of other projects for future consideration will also be sent to Brownback. That list would total $57.8 million.
Among the top priorities for Kansas University, the regents included $5 million in ongoing funding for a drug and discovery institute and $3.4 million for merit-based salary enhancements at the KU Medical Center.
Other big ticket items on the list include $10 million to build a technical institute in Dodge City and $5 million per year in funding as part of the proposed merger of Fort Hays State University and Dodge City Community College.
Under the budget recommendations, Kansas State University would get $5 million to renovate and expand Seaton Hall to support the College of Architecture, Planning and Design. Other schools would also receive enhancements.
The list also includes a $2.5 million increase in need-based student financial aid.